Another of de Lint’s urban fantasy novels (Forests of the Heart, 2000, etc.) set in the imaginary city of Newford, this one centering on artist and philanthropist Jilly Coppercorn. Jilly, long in touch with her magical side, captures the beings of fairyland in her paintings; but she’s able to visit fairyland only in her dreams. As the story opens, Jilly, nearly killed by a hit-and-run driver, lies half-paralyzed in a hospital bed. Despite the efforts of her friends—artists, musicians, those she’s helped and befriended over the years—Jilly, reluctant to face existence as the Broken Girl, spends more and more time in fairyland. As a young girl, she fled her drunken parents and Del, her rapist elder brother, only to slip into prostitution and drug addiction. When finally she got straightened out, she went back to find the younger sister she feels she abandoned. But Raylene was long gone, raped by Del in turn until her friend Pinky gave her a switchblade and the courage to use it. Now, years later, Raylene’s back, nursing her hatred for the sister she feels abandoned her, breaking into Jilly’s studio to trash her paintings. Worse, Raylene also can enter the dreamlands, where she’s a wolf and a ruthless hunter, feeding on the blood of unicorns.
Another absorbing tale, as believable and insightful as they come, yet there’s still an unsatisfying lack of weight—even the ancient spirits don’t pack much of a wallop.